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Trigger Point Therapy - Popliteus and Knee Pain

Posted by Judith Winer on


Popliteus Trigger Points Knee Pain

Popliteus - an often overlooked muscle that takes a lot of abuse


Left untreated, trigger points in popliteus can lead to a number of more serious complications

Machine-based exercise, such as prone leg curls, can over-stress the popliteus, causing spasm and diminished screw-home capability. This, in turn, can lead to inhibition of the piriformis and deep hip rotators, with hyperextension at the knee.

Shortness of the muscle can be confirmed by observing slight flexion and internal rotation of the anatomical leg.


Popliteus Trigger Points

Popliteus - Common Trigger Point Site


Knee Pain and Stiffness

The popliteus is a muscle that takes a lot of stressful abuse, and eventually myofascial trigger points can form, causing pain in the back of the knee.

At night the pain tends to reduce or ceases completely. Stiffness in the knee joint is often evident in the morning, with reduced ability to fully extend the anatomical leg.

On assessment, the foot can appear as if the leg has turned in (medial rotation at the knee). This is often a result of heavy squat exercises in the absence of appropriate neuromuscular stability at the joints and within the core.

Popliteus - Trigger Point Therapy

This area is rich in neurovascular structures that are predominantly located in the midline, and this may be one of the reasons that this trigger point is often overlooked.

Trigger points in popliteus can be readily treated by a competent therapist but the use of pressure tools for self treatment in this case is generally not advised. 

As stated above, these trigger points will not only be the cause of (often "unexplained") pain at the back of the knee, and knee stiffness, but if left untreated may also lead to a number of long term complications as muscles elsewhere in the body work to compensate.

Differential Diagnosis

Avulsion. Cruciate ligaments (instability). Baker’s cyst. Osteoarthritis. Tendonitis. Cartilage (meniscus) injury. Vascular (deep vein thrombosis, thrombosis). Tenosynovitis.


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This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 


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